As 15 year old Sid Ortis and his family continue their fight against his cancer, they have found an extended family among the hallways of Children’s of Alabama.
“You don’t expect to see many smiling faces on the cancer treatment floor of a hospital,” said Sid’s father Scott Ortis. “Everyone working here in the hematology and oncology department cares a lot. They work long, hard days, yet they are upbeat and cheerful, always ready to help the patients and their families. What we have experienced at Children’s has been phenomenal. It’s hard to even describe it.”
In the summer of 2014, Sid returned from a basketball camp with some pain in his knee. Just one day after seeing a doctor, Sid was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Later that month, he was set to begin his freshman year at Mountain Brook High School.
Osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that starts in the bones. Only around 400 cases are diagnosed annually in children and teens in the United States.
While Sid’s medical care has been a priority, the family has received unlimited emotional support as well. Scott recalled one Friday afternoon when the family went to Children’s for some test results. On their way in to the hospital, they saw one of Sid’s physical therapists in the elevator. Later, she sat at her desk frequently checking her computer, waiting just as anxiously as the Ortises for Sid’s results. “She’s more than just someone taking care of Sid. She truly cares about our family,” Scott said.
Scott also described one of Sid’s recent surgeries that was supposed to be about four hours but lasted much longer, closer to seven hours. “Some of the nurses saw us in the waiting room and sat down with us. They held our hands, and they prayed with us. It was pretty incredible for them to share that time with us,” Scott said.
Sid has four siblings, and the nurses are always quick to ask about them as well, Scott said. “They’ve given us information to share with them to help them understand Sid’s illness. Everyone here cares about every single aspect of what we’re facing with Sid.”
Scott himself is no stranger to Birmingham’s medical community. “I’ve worked with Children’s for more than 15 years through my home health services company. I’ve interacted with doctors, nurses and other staff here countless times,” Scott said. “But you never think it would be your child they’re treating. Until your child needs the services Children’s provides, you may never realize the jewel we are fortunate to have right here in our city.”
Having such quality care close to home has made a difficult situation just a bit easier. “If we had gone out of town for the same treatment for Sid, we would have had to get an apartment for Sid and my wife Lynn, and our family wouldn’t be together through this time.”
Scott said Children’s of Alabama will forever be a special place for the Ortises. “The care is so good here. The folks here are smart and have big hearts.”
And while the Ortis family continues to cope with the challenges of Sid’s illness, they embrace the opportunity to grow their new extended family. “It has been an amazing thing to watch — the goodness of people. Friends, neighbors, people we don’t even know are praying for Sid.”